"Fascinating . . . Surprising entertainment, combining deep learning with dad jokes . . . [Schutt] is a natural teacher with an easy way with metaphor.”—The Wall Street Journal
In this lively, unexpected look at the hearts of animals—from fish to bats to humans—American Museum of Natural History zoologist Bill Schutt tells an incredible story of evolution and scientific progress.
We join Schutt on a tour from the origins of circulation, still evident in microorganisms today, to the tiny hardworking pumps of worms, to the golf-cart-size hearts of blue whales. We visit beaches where horseshoe crabs are being harvested for their blood, which has properties that can protect humans from deadly illnesses. We learn that when temperatures plummet, some frog hearts can freeze solid for weeks, resuming their beat only after a spring thaw. And we journey with Schutt through human history, too, as philosophers and scientists hypothesize, often wrongly, about what makes our ticker tick. Schutt traces humanity’s cardiac fascination from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, who believed that the heart contains the soul, all the way up to modern-day laboratories, where scientists use animal hearts and even plants as the basis for many of today’s cutting-edge therapies.
Written with verve and authority, weaving evolutionary perspectives with cultural history, Pump shows us this mysterious organ in a completely new light.
"The history of cardiovascular medicine has no shortage of strange stories and bizarre treatments," writes zoologist Schutt (Cannibalism) in this show-stopping exploration of cardiac biology. In three parts, Schutt muses on various aspects of the heart, balancing scientific facts and light anecdotes. Part one, "Wild at Heart," provides an evolutionary history of the heart and the circulatory system, and introduces antarctic icefish, the only vertebrates with clear rather than red blood. "What We Knew and What We Thought We Knew" takes a retrospective look at early ideas on the heart, surveying how it was once thought to be the "center of emotion," and "From Bad to Better" covers such cardiovascular discoveries as cardiac catheterization and the origin of the stethoscope (a Parisian physician invented it in the 1810s). Along the way, Schutt discusses such curiosities as the possible maladies that befell Charles Darwin (serious heart disease, based on his letters) and the fact that beached, putrefying blue whales don't explode from the buildup of internal gases as happens with sperm whales. The author successfully pairs accessible science with strong storytelling, describing how Greek, Egyptian, and medieval scholars helped advance human knowledge (and at times misled it). The result is informative, playful, and impossible to put down.